Now that Google has released two big May updates to its algorithm in the last two years, both focusing on mobile web sites, we think it's fair to start calling this the "Mobile May" phenomenon. And like all updates to the Google algorithm, it's going to have a big impact on page rankings.
Google has good reason for these mobile updates: Mobile device ownership and commerce are still on a sharp rise throughout the United States. At this point, those without a strong mobile site are starting to lose customers as buying preferences change. This is hitting the B2B industries much more slowly than B2C, but the effects are still there, especially early on in the sales funnel where leads are making up their minds. So let's look at what Google is planning, and what you should do instead of panicking.
What is Google Going to Change?
Google is usually tight-lipped about its algorithm changes, but the company is pushing hard for more mobile-friendly sites and so is prepared to give out a bit more information than usual. We know that the changes affect mobile search results specifically, and will increase "the effect of the ranking signal."
What does that mean? Well, we have a pretty good idea because of all the attention that Google's 2015 Mobile May received. The ranking signal they are talking about is a filter that scans mobile sites whenever someone makes an organic search. The filter judges where or not the site is mobile friendly, apparently with a pass/fail grade. If you pass, your site gets a tag that boosts its page rank, while non-optimized sites fall behind and are less likely to ever be seen.
The 2016 update appears to strengthen that boosting effect so that mobile-friendly sites will get even better page ranks and poor mobile sites will earn even more obscurity. How much more is hard to say. Last year's change led to a 10% loss in page rankings for poor mobile sites. Will this update make that 20%? 30%? We're not sure, but we do know that Google means business here.
What Should I Do About It?
The reasons for using a mobile-optimized site are quite clear – but now what? If you haven't spent much time with mobile content or design, or you're worried your mobile efforts aren't up to snuff for the latest Google changes, we have a couple project-oriented suggestions for you. There are reams of data available about how to make your content mobile friendly, but these tasks provide a solid foundation to begin:
- Use Google's Mobile Tester: Google has an automatic mobile tester for any website that will tell you if it's mobile friendly. It's not the most informative, but it is made by Google so it will correlate nicely with your ranking signal results.
- Study Google's Webmaster Guide for Mobile Design: This guide has a lot of great tips on what makes a site mobile friendly, and once again it's Google's own advice.
- Use MobiReady: This testing tool includes some alternative data compared to Google's own test.
- Try SiteSpect: This service is a bit more advanced, and although it requires a fee it also gives you a lot more information to work with. It's a great tool for a closer look at what needs work on your site.